PHILADELPHIA -- Historic home run? You betcha.
But while the rest of the country acknowledged -- however grudgingly -- the 714th home run hit by Barry Bonds yesterday afternoon, Josh Beckett gave Red Sox fans a memorable swing worth celebrating without the slightest bit of compunction.
Beckett, doing his own Babe Ruth impression, both at the plate and on the mound, hit the first home run by a Sox pitcher during the designated hitter era, which began in 1973, in an 8-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies before a crowd of 44,809 in a Citizens Bank Park that for much of the night shook with the boos for which the disgruntled natives are famous.
Beckett's Sox teammates, meanwhile, gave him the reception his moment deserved -- at least the one dictated by baseball custom. Beckett, who had chided Phillies strongman Ryan Howard for excessive admiration of what he thought was a spring training home run, circled the bases with his head down, barely acknowledged the raised fist of on-deck batter Kevin Youkilis, then ducked into the visitors' dugout -- where not a soul moved off the bench.
''It was perfect," said Curt Schilling, who denied being the ringleader (''There were a lot of them.") of the silent treatment that greeted Beckett. ''It was one of the better ones that I've ever been a part of."
The neglect was temporary, of course, Beckett ultimately being engulfed by mates impressed by the first home run hit by a Sox pitcher since Marty Pattin took Bill Parsons of the Brewers deep in Fenway Park Sept. 26, 1972, back when men were men and American League pitchers were still required to take their hacks.
But Schilling, who will open the Yankee series tomorrow night at Fenway, was more impressed by Beckett's work on the mound, Beckett raising his record to 6-1 despite some back stiffness resulting from his slip on the mound in his last start that required him to be worked on between every inning.
''The last two games he's pitched basically 14 dominant innings," Schilling said. ''He went out there with a game plan. You could see it, just the way he's moving the ball around. He's still throwing, but he's got more of a plan. With that stuff, he has the chance to be . . . something."
Beckett the hitter, of course, had the benefit of some extra batting practice, having played for the Marlins until this season.
''Being a younger guy and playing in the National League, he's always hit," said Youkilis, who played third base flawlessly last night, singled and tripled, and scored twice. ''Everyone hit in high school. He probably hit a lot in high school, he got to the major leagues sooner than others, so he got to hit a lot.
''But it's definitely impressive, what he did. Helping out your own cause is always huge."
Still, he'd hit only one home run in his career before going deep against Brett Myers, who had taken a 1-0 lead into the sixth, Chase Utley's home run in the third having accounted for the game's only run to that point.
But then an egregious throwing error by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who may have been guilty of some needless styling while fielding Alex Gonzalez's ground ball, paved the way for four unearned runs that sent the Sox on their way to their fourth win in five games on this trip.
Gonzalez cruised into second with one out, bringing up Beckett, a career .139 hitter who last season had taken John Patterson of the Nationals over the fence in Washington Sept. 8. This time he lined a single to center, tying the score. Youkilis and Mark Loretta followed with singles to load the bases, David Ortiz broke the tie with a sacrifice fly, Manny Ramírez walked, and Trot Nixon grounded a single through the right side for two more runs. All four runs were unearned, the boos building as the inning progressed.
It only got worse for Myers in the seventh. With one out, Beckett drove a 2-and-2 fastball over the flower beds in left-center field.
''You never expect to hit a ball off a guy like that," Beckett said. ''He just happened to hit my bat with it, and it carried for me. The wind was blowing out a little bit. It was exciting. I was just trying to worry about the next inning, going out and executing pitches. It's easy to have a mental lapse there. I just got lucky and he hit my bat with it."
Youkilis then hit a ball over the head of right fielder Bobby Abreu that caromed off the railing and back toward the infield, Youkilis winding up at third with a stand-up triple, his first career triple.
''It's going to happen, you play every day, you're going to get a triple," Youkilis said, ''especially in our park in Boston. This game is a crazy game. You're going to have crazy things happen."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel lifted Myers for Ryan Madson, and Loretta made it 6-1 with a sacrifice fly to score Youkilis.
Then, a home run perhaps as unexpected as Beckett's: Gonzalez, breaking an 0-for-17 slump with a homer off Aaron Fultz after a single by Wily Mo Peña, pinch runner Willie Harris scoring ahead of Gonzalez.
That made it 8-1, but whatever thoughts that Beckett might close this one out himself ended when Howard hit a three-run home run with no outs in the eighth. The inning began when first baseman J.T. Snow, just inserted as a defensive replacement, booted a ground ball by Utley. Abreu walked and Howard hit his 13th home run just inside the left-field foul pole, his fly ball just reaching the seats. Yes, he ran as soon as he hit it.
Reliever Julian Tavarez added some suspense when he gave up back-to-back singles, but he retired pinch hitter David Dellucci on a fly ball and pinch hitter Alex Gonzalez on a roller to third. Tavarez actually headed for the dugout after Dellucci's fly ball, thinking the inning was over.
It was left to Mike Timlin to finish off the Phillies' fifth straight defeat, which he did in 1-2-3 fashion in the ninth.